Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gigi’s Fresh Cafe

1727 Catlin Drive
Barnhart, Mo.

The Place:
  Just off highway M,  west of I-55 in Barnhart. It anchors / is attached to the U-Gas station. U-Gas offers "GiGi’s Fresh Express" food at all its 18 St. Louis area  locations, but the only sit-down cafe is the one in Barnhart. The stacked stone arched entrance and large tower-like facade indicates that the owners invested quite a bit in quality materials and made a big, expensive effort to make it look like a unique, quality place.
Inside, the walls were brick, the floors hardwood, the ceilings open to the roof with exposed vents. Nice, green vinyl booth seating and chairs lined the walls and partition. The counter had scattered menus overhead making hopping between the unfamiliar options quite a chore. Noticing our new-ness to the place the lady behind the counter offered up printed menus. This helped a lot. They have a lot to offer, maybe too much. But that’s not necessarily a crime if you can manage it.

Supreme Pizza
The Food:
 Angel wanted to try their St. Louis style pizza, advertised as being prepared in a wood-burning oven. The smallest they had was 14”, too big for her alone, we would take the leftover home for Sunday breakfast. She also split an order of 12 mild hot-wings with Adam. I wasn’t in a mood for pizza ,especially St. Louis style, which I’ve found to usually be too sweet (it’s the provel cheese). I told her I’d like to try a bite though. Adam ordered a chipotle-chicken panini  and fries. I asked for the BLT and fries. They offer a choice of breads and bread options, so be prepared. This was a  pretty big order, more than we could possibly eat in one sitting. Sometimes that’s just part of the plan, especially when there’s pizza.
We were handed  our plastic tumblers and headed for the drink fountain. I got tea, Angel tested the sweet tea, tasted a little before committing, then filled up with it. Adam was impressed with the options, they offered both Coke and Pepsi, a rarity in restaurants.
We found a booth and settled in. Angel and Adam were furiously tapping on their telephones, trying to find a decent movie to rent for later, without much luck. She tried to get me interested in one that she claimed had Nazi zombies at the center of the earth. I just couldn’t get sufficiently aroused. I like a good anti-Nazi movie as much as any guy, but this whole faddish zombie thing just doesn’t work for me.(don't even get me started on vampires)
The wait was about normal for a place making made-to-order pizzas. All our food came at the same time, all fresh and hot, none of it had set around for long. A sign of quality that.
The food along with the extra plates and the pile of napkins filled the table. We looked like a poster for the sin of gluttony. But like I said, all part of the plan.
It's a bit risky putting 'fresh' in the name of your eatery. Gigi's wasn't kidding though, the food was all bright and pretty, you only get that with fresh ingredients. The cut on my BLT was lopsided, a minor flaw, but they had crammed six full slices of bacon, smoky, crisp, perfectly cooked. The lettuce and tomato were fresh and crispy as well. The mayo seemed to have a slight hint of flavoring, maybe a bit of chipotle. It wasn't too strong though, in fact it was quite good. Six slices of bacon is a lot. Not as much as the famed St. Louis eatery 'Crown Candy Kitchen'. Their 'Heart Stopping BLT' boasts fourteen slices and has been recently featured on The Travel Channel.
I thought about taking some of the bacon off, but I couldn't, it's bacon. Frankly, two or three slices is plenty, bacon has a nice strong flavor, you really don't need a lot to be fully satisfied. I will admit to feeling the effects later, groggy and sluggish, slightly nearer death, but man it was good.
The pizza was generously topped, it was their 'supreme' model. Angel and Adam pinched off small slices. Adam picked offending toppings off, Angel devoured hers and grabbed another. "Good, better than Dominos and not as sweet as Imo's." She said. This was a positive assessment, I tried a little. Sure enough, it was pretty good. In my mind perhaps the best St. Louis style I've had. They didn't over-use the sweet provel cheese, instead letting the other toppings speak mostly for themselves.
Though I'm not a fan of anyone's hot-wings, the report from Angel and Adam was unanimous, the wings were very good as well. Though they kind of swam in a pool of sauce, the chicken was still quite crunchy. The spiciness for this plate, ordered as 'mild' was about dead-on. It cleared Angel's sinuses, made her sweat a little bit and Adam said he preferred a slightly spicier version. So that means it was just about right.
Adam's sandwich was reported as being 'good', crispy and spicy.
The staff checked on us several times, removing empty plates, asking if all was well.   
We pooled our thoughts and could not come up with anything bad to say. The food was all very good. The service was attentive and dutiful. The tab came to a misleading  forty seven and change, but remember we deliberately over-ordered. We boxed up about half the wings and more than half of the pizza. Then the sweet lady that brought us the box started aggressively up-selling desserts. They have quite a variety, including sno-cones, ice creams, etc. We explained that we'd completely overdone it already, but would be back sometime just for a dessert and some coffee maybe.
If I had any real complaint, it would be that Gigi's online menu is not at all the same as the in-store listings. That's easily fixable though, there are a lot of things offered there that simply don't show up online.
This place was quite surprising. The food was excellent, fresh, tasty, well prepared. Not what you think of when you look at it's location as one corner of a convenience store. Quick-stops make me think of wrinkly, day-old hot dogs and dubious, pre-packaged sandwiches. This was completely different. This was very, very good.
Highly recommended, very highly. Why this place hasn't branched out to more locations I have no idea. They did it right, they've got a real winner. 

Gigi's Fresh Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Provel is not what makes stl style pizza sweet, its the sweet pizza sause that is traditional on stl style pizza. Try provel alone or on another dish it is not at all sweet.